How To Eliminate Bullying At Your School

Playground at Masterton Central School, around 1955, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

How to make your schools safer? No more "cottonwalling".

Eight primary schools in New Zealand have agreed to a ground-breaking and radical approach to children's play suggested by university researchers. The schools at first were skeptical, but eventually agreed to the controversial change.

You know how in the U.S. school after school has banned dodgeball and armored up on playground rules so that navigating the monkey bars is like navigating a human resources interview? Well, the sport everyone in New Zealand plays is rugby, so the game they got rid of was called "bullrush", which is "basically rugby without a ball."

Bullrush and other robust activities, like climbing trees and pretending sticks were guns, fell out of favor years ago. New Zealand playgrounds also armored up on safety and cotton candy. Then they said no contact and no fun. And there wasn't really any cotton candy.

The radical approach suggested by researchers?

Get rid of all those rules.

Yep. That was it. Get rid of what the kiwis call in this article and video from a national TV news story, "cottonwalling".
Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play. 
However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said. 
When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results. 
Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol. 
Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a "loose parts pit" which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose. 
"The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school."  
Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.
Bullying was virtually eliminated. A lot of emphasis is put on the idea that if they don't get to test themselves and makes mistakes when they're young, their handling of consequences when they're older will be poorer. That is to say, and of course no said this exact thing, kids who only get to "play" in bureaucracies are much more likely to be fools and jerks.

There's an excellent video at the original story that is really well worth watching. Embedding is disabled, so head on over there, already.

One last note. "No rules" obviously means no stupid or bureaucratic rules. These teachers are clearly not setting a Lord of the Flies scenarios. So nobody talk about Lord of the Flies!


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